John Dehlin, dinosaurs, NDAs and compensation


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In scientific and popular circles there has been a relatively sustained interest in the geological history of mass extinction events. Wikipedia has a descriptive article. Such mass extinction events describe occasions where there is “a widespread and rapid decrease in the biodiversity on Earth.” Taking this definition as a starting point, it appears that the Open Stories Foundation (OSF) board has undergone yet another mass extinction event, the most recent in a significant history of such occurrences. Rational Faiths and Medium (particularly the latter) have alleged that a large portion (possibly all) of the OSF staff, and around half of the board have quit or are otherwise no longer working there. Markus Smith, the nominal author of the Medium article, corroborates this initial claim with the observation that the OSF team website appeared to have been taken down. As I write this, it appears to be back up, though with a number of board members and staff no longer in attendance. For whom the asteroid tolls, eh?

This is, of course, not the first time a large portion of the board disappeared. Rumor  has it that a substantial portion of the board resigned around the time of the Rosebud incident (also earlier posts).

Reports vary as to the reasons for various departures. A “toxic work environment” has been cited by at least one observer. As Wikipedia again says, “In general, large extinctions may result when a biosphere under long-term stress undergoes a short-term shock.” But unlike the departure of the dinosaurs, much of this event has gone much more quietly, and one reason for that is the stunning effectiveness of John Dehlin’s use of NDAs. A nondisclosure agreements or NDA (Wikipedia again) is a “legal contract between at least two parties that outlines confidential material, knowledge, or information that the parties wish to share with one another for certain purposes, but wish to restrict access to or by third parties.” What is less clear is the purpose and scope of the nondisclosure agreements. Rumor has it the nondisclosure agreements are the reason we haven’t heard more about these departures. Is the scope of the NDA such that they can’t talk about prior abuses during their work at OSF? There appears to be more to the story of the turnover, but some Mormon Stories inevitably get privileged over others when a legal device is being used to prevent transparency.

The reply from the surviving members of OSF (entitled “Statement from the Open Stories Foundation Board of Directors”) unsurprisingly does not address the NDA question, but to my reading raised several others. For example, after describing a period of internal self-evaluation leading to reorganization, the author claims that “The board unanimously approved the changes from the self-evaluation.” The obvious question here is who was on the board at the time that this “unanimous” decision was reached or, in other words, if this was before or after the latest “event” trimmed them down. Are the outgoing board members willing to confirm that this is the case? Are they even able to under their current NDA? Are these agreements being used for a legitimate reason or are they being used primarily to shield John from criticism?

I call on the board to release the language of all NDAs that have been used for members of the board and employees so that we can transparently evaluate whether these agreements are conducive or contrary to ethical operation of a non-profit.

This certainly wouldn’t be the first time he has actively censored others. During this most recent dust-up, I’ve additionally noticed an unusual number of posts being removed from Reddit regarding Dehlin and wonder if this is normal community enforcement or something more targeted (see for example here and here).

The next section that caught my eye was headed “Podcaster Compensation.” The question of how many different ways John was profiting off of the non-profit Open Stories Foundation is an ongoing curiosity. The post indicates that revenue to podcasters from podcasts will be 75% of donations to that podcast and will be capped at $200,000. The post later states that John Dehlin’s compensation “is not expected to” exceed $200,000. That statement is nothing if not completely wishy washy, but it actually overlooks a more interesting question, which is: What if a podcast has more than one host that just happens to be in the same family? Would they each get up to $200,000?

Some people find the money stuff tedious. I get that, so I’ll be brief. I call on John Dehlin to release his personal tax returns from 2017 and, when available, 2018 as I think that is probably the quickest way to clear all of this tedious up. #Transparency.

John Dehlin’s #MeToo Moment


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In the era of #MeToo, Kavanaugh, and other perplexities related to allegations of sexual misconduct of miscellaneous men in positions of power, it might perhaps seem inevitable that John Dehlin would eventually find his way to the center of the fray. Opinions might differ as to whether he would be more likely to show up as an activist or as an accused perpetrator. The safe money was probably on both. Apparently in response to the circumstances surrounding an unrelated allegation, sometime during April the pseudonymous “Rosebud,” a former employee of Open Stories Foundation who was released under sketchy circumstances apparently related to an emotional affair (with limited physical components; linked in this sentence, see especially text beginning at RB5), has released additional information about her experience with John Dehlin. This additional comment both clarifies her earlier comments about the limited sexual scope of their relationship and makes clear that one problematic aspect was that in at least one case it was lacking in and contrary to her consent. The meat of her further statement can be found here. I don’t feel to comment a great deal more about this except to say that this is a clear illustration of sexual misconduct and the involved communities need to decide what they really think of such misconduct and whether they care more about accountability or whether they are willing to permit this to be an endemic phenomenon as long as those doing it share their ideology.

Upon thinking it through this morning, with everything that’s going on in the press and my life, now is as good a moment as any to share. This gets to the heart of why I’m so disgusted about what’s happening right now.

At first John really seduced me. It was nice to be heard and be speaking to a man who had the ability to perceive my perspective and how I felt. I learned a lot about what was missing in my marriage from him, having married before I understood enough about life and myself.

But as time went on, I got to know him better. I began to understand the danger of my situation — the danger that has since unfolded in his media spectacle. I was still strangely emotionally attached to him, something I understand a lot better now, but at the time I was stuck protecting him while I was vulnerable to whatever he might try to do to hurt me in the present or future. I see it now as a bit like Stockholm syndrome. I see a similar phenomenon in members who protect the church despite how poorly it treats them.

Anyway, as time went on, I was acting less and less for my own self and in my own self-interests and more in the interest of self-protection, which, admittedly, is also a self-interest, but it is a different one than desire for love and affection. It’s a desire for safety.

Well, one night, after a conference, I said goodnight to John and our hosts in the home where we were staying. I had told John, like so many times before, not to come to my room to bother me. We had been minimally sexual (although I didn’t understand how minimally at the time because I had no real experience with normal sex then and I took it all so ridiculously seriously) and I wanted him to leave me alone and knock it off. Well, as usual, he didn’t do as I requested. I went up to the child’s bedroom where I had been asked by the hosts to sleep and got in bed. Before long, John was at the beside groping my breasts (yes, the irony considering the current media situation). I was so hurt and scared and tired of the dynamics. That time I pushed him away. I had not consented. I was angry that he was treating me that way, but I was not safe because I was well aware by then of the huge consequences of saying no.

And in that moment, I remember thinking, “What’s the difference between this and non-consensual groping? The fact that I’m not crying out loudly to stop him and get help? But it wouldn’t have been safe for me to scream for help. I was unsafe because John was busy lying publicly and putting together his plans to get the church and to build his narrative and fame. And I was too afraid of what would happen if I reported. I eventually did report, and all of my fears came true. I had good reason to be afraid. I was spot on. So was the difference between that and non-consensual groping the fact that I had fully consented in the past so he now had license to call what was happening in that moment also consensual? Was what he was doing okay because in the past I had said no but he had cajoled my no into a yes so he was justified in trying to do that again or was it just plain wrong that he ever came into my room in the first place?”

Those were my thoughts at the time. I understand better now, but that is where I was then.

What he was doing was wrong because of the extreme power imbalance in the situation… in a similar manner to what the MTC president did wrong (EDIT: although I am of course not sure about the details of that case). Obviously in that moment, it was non-consensual groping. But in previous moments, the power imbalance also made it wrong, even if in previous moments I had not pushed him away. I was not happy and taken care of — I was frightened, threatened and he was my boss.

Anyway…. I hope you can see where my perspective about John getting all upset about this MTC president is coming from. He has no right to point fingers. He needs to let the women speak for themselves. EDIT: He wants media power and fame. The attention feeds him even though he is no better than the MTC president was. He never cared about me. He used me because I was exciting to him.

As for the crime: that was an audio recording John made of me without my consent. It was the moment I told my attorney about that audio recording that my attorney got red in the face (in anger at John after reading his emails to me and seeing my fear and horror about what was happening) and said, “I’ll take the case.” He knew John’s actions had gone far enough to make a clear case about who was right and who was wrong if he ever had to go before a judge and jury. A crime of that sort will do that. My attorney knew, of course, that I didn’t want to ever go to court or litigate because I had made that clear, but he also wanted some assurance the he could actually win if the situation changed.

Anyway. John should shut up and the OSF has an ethical obligation to compensate me, I think. That compensation won’t ever happen, but I still think the obligation is there. They’re in my debt. And I’m not going to forgive that debt because I don’t think it would be healthy for me to do so. But, I would like all of the drama in my life to finally be over so I can just grow old and happy.

And am I afraid of him suing me for saying this? No, because it’s true.

I will add a last thought on this. I believe her. Her story matches and explains her known circumstances well and as much of her story as she has told has remained consistent over time. She has chosen to avoid litigation with its attendant drama, and I respect her decision. I have no expectations of Dehlin suing her because, as she said, “it’s true,” and I suspect the process of discovery would make that all too painfully clear.

John Dehlin and the women problem


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In the last few days, there has been a bit of an uptick in discussion regarding John Dehlin. A number of minor (and arguably a few major) revelations have come out of it, but in thinking about the overall impression that I’ve gotten from observing discussions in widely disparate corners of the internet, I think the takeaway is that John Dehlin has a women problem. Now if John were here I am sure that he would remind us that no one respects women more than John Dehlin and proceed to tell us how much he has done for them. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. How did this whole thing start?
Note: In this post I will attempt to (in keeping with the emerging consensus on sound historical writing practices in women’s history) privilege women’s voices and perspectives where possible.
Now, for context, it looks like this current episode actually has its origin in an earlier public dispute between John Dehlin and Kate Kelly. Apparently, Kristy Money told Kelly that she was not being compensated for the work she did as an Open Stories Foundation (OSF) podcaster and Kelly had the following to say about it. Here is the text of Kelly’s original post (transcription mine from a photo) (hereafter [KK1]):
I AM SICK & TIRED OF WOMEN DOING WORK FOR FREE. Especially Mormon women. We are expected to do everything for the “good of the cause” and to expect no compensation for our time and talent. I just talked to Kristy Money who does an amazing podcast called Mormon Transitions as part of Mormon Stories AND SHE DOESN’T MAKE A SINGLE CENT.
This is unacceptable. John Parkinson Dehlin if I want to specifically donate to Kristy Money or Gina Colvin’s podcasts & not to Mormon Stories generally, how do I do that? If there isn’t a way, there needs to be a way. Yesterday.
Lindsay Hansen Park and so many others do podcasts & work that cost so much time & they make pennies on the dollar to men.
And, no one better argue that they are less talented or get less downloads or I am SERIOUSLY GOING TO LOST IT.
This apparently precipitated a dispute between Dehlin and Money. Presumably, Dehlin was angry with Money disclosing that fact that he wasn’t giving her any… …money for her podcasting labors in behalf of the organization. Kelly described the results of her posting Money’s not being paid for her services, “She supported me posting it, but didn’t speak out directly herself because she feared severe retribution… which, sadly, happened anyway. As a result of talking about her compensation to others (even privately), Kristy’s relationship as a podcaster with Mormon Stories ended. Her podcast Mormon Transitions (that shwas the initial podcaster of & worked for months to build) was taken over by John Dehlin’s wife.” It does seem ironic that, in an organization that touts transparency as a concept, Money’s disclosing her non-salary would constitute grounds for retribution, as Kelly suggests. The takeover of the podcast by Dehlin’s wife around this time certainly seems to circumstantially support this reading of events. It might stand to reason that if the salary’s becoming public knowledge wasn’t acceptable then it is probably the case that on some level Dehlin understood that the non-salary itself wasn’t really acceptable. This does seem to support Kelly’s subsequent assertion that, “I know that institutions never change unless there are real consequences [KK2].” In any event, Kristy Money, “left the Open Stories Foundation in late 2016” [M1] as, apparently, a direct consequence of the retaliatory fallout of the confrontation between Kelly and Dehlin.
On May 20th Kristy Money published an open letter on her Facebook. This letter is copied here in full with no editing beyond possible losses of formatting during copying (this source is subsequently referred to as [M1]):
————————————-Money Quote [M1]——————————-

Since I left the Open Stories Foundation in late 2016, a lot of people have asked me what happened. I have deliberated for months on what to say and how to say it—I have tried repeatedly to express my concerns privately to both John Dehlin and OSF to no avail. So even in the midst of painful morning sickness with baby #5 and cross-country family move fog, I feel it’s time to publicly call on Dr. Dehlin to release detailed OSF financials for 2016 and annually in perpetuity. Especially if he is going to continue to assert that OSF is on a shoestring budget and he is not unduly profiting from it financially (i.e. inurement). Here are the concerns I have based on my experience:

-In late 2016, OSF completely revamped their pay structure for podcasters so that, while Dr. Dehlin continues to draw a regular base salary as CEO–with further unknown financial benefit from co-hosting podcasts with members of his household, collecting speaking fees for retreats, and performance bonuses–podcasters are not salaried employees (rather, they are outside contractors provided no benefits and paid relative pennies per download, on the justification that OSF is based in Utah, a right-to-work state). This change also coincides with the first year that OSF has not been transparent about its finances and the substantially large retreats began.

-Moderators who donate hours upon hours per week of their own time to moderate official OSF groups and funnel/support members into his organization have been invited to OSF banquets, but only if they pay for their food.

-I have come to know many individuals who were never paid by Dr. Dehlin for professional services they did for him personally and OSF as an organization that they were promised. For my own time and travel to speak at a NYC OSF retreat, I was only comped for my flight—and only after sending 5+ reminder emails over 3 months.

-I was present when individuals who work for Dr. Dehlin have been brought to tears from how he treated them for privately (in a very small group) expressing concerns about his behavior. Our witnessing their treatment seemed to me a warning that we would be treated similarly if he perceived our loyalty to be lacking.

I have seen OSF’s work be a force for good in the lives of people I care about, like my dear husband. At the same time, especially in light of recent events (like John’s organizing of luxury retreats in the Bahamas and Australia) and his demand for loyalty and not answering for his behavior when approached privately, I regrettably must do this publicly. If Dr. Dehlin continues to criticize the church saying that it’s not financially transparent, a non-profit that acts like a for-profit, not helping those in need with excess funds that are instead put elsewhere (details unknown), etc., then it’s important that he hold his own non-profit institution to the same standard. When I was deliberating whether or not to stay with OSF last Nov. when issues between John and Kate Kelly unfolded, both John and the OSF board told me that we can’t let John’s reputation risk tarnishing, because if that happens, “the Church wins.” I don’t feel comfortable giving a pass and allowing an institutional culture like that within OSF leadership. Encouragement from the top to give problematic behavior from leaders “a break” sounds too familiar. My only goal is for this open letter to Dr. Dehlin to lead to positive change. I hope it will.

She addresses a basket of issues including:
1. John’s apparent inability to take correction and apparent abusive behavior toward those offering it,
2. obscure financial arrangements within OSF that seem to disproportionately benefit John financially,
3. many others performing a great deal of work with no financial or other benefits and arguably no respect,
4. nonpayment of promised funds for work performed,
5. John’s inappropriately demanding loyalty, particularly when confronted about bad behavior and a culture within OSF working to preserve his reputation in spite of “problematic behavior”
6. Concerns about the implications of recent changes in pay structuring, hiring his wife as a podcaster and new potentially high-dollar ventures such as cruises.
Difficulties taking private correction seems to be a theme worth developing. Efforts to “express my concerns privately to both John Dehlin and OSF [were] to no avail” and similar efforts by others resulted in their being “brought to tears from how he treated them for privately (in a very small group) expressing concerns about his behavior. Our witnessing their treatment seemed to me a warning that we would be treated similarly if he perceived our loyalty to be lacking.” It seems from this statement that the problem is at least serious enough to have a chilling effect upon those within the organization that might otherwise check bad behavior, a dangerous condition organizationally. Kate Kelly’s subsequent account confirms the existence of this dynamic. Regarding suspected financial abuses suggested in Money’s open letter, Kelly writes  “This issue has been brought to Dehlin’s attention multiple times in private.” Public correction is also often rejected and demonization of the correcting party typically follows. According to Kelly [KK2], “When I tried to approach it publicly in the fall John publicly posted dozens of hateful comments about me on a running thread he kept editing to add more comments from others that maligned my character (he later was convinced by friends to take down bc it made him look absolutely unhinged). He immediately blocked me on Facebook & tried to villainize me after years & years of loyal friendship because he felt threatened by criticism not coming from “haters” but from friends. Because of that post & that post alone, John called me the “Robespierre of Mormonism.” After Kristy’s post yesterday, he has tried to villainize Kristy, too. That is his general modus operandi & a very transparent attempt to deflect her legitimate concerns.”
Note: Kelly’s complete response is given in the footnotes, but excerpted in the text due to its length. It is a worthwhile read, but would tend to disrupt the more thematic approach being taken here.
Accounts about John’s failure to accept reasonable correction and instead demand loyalty continue but take some interesting turns in the comments section responding to the original posts on Kelly’s and Money’s Facebook walls. I am not planning on including links at this point (or peoples names unless they are the principle actors) due to the number of people that haven’t made it really clear that they want to be famous, which I respect, but they are publicly accessible for those interested.
One respondent commented, “This situation has been exactly one year in the making. It is LONG overdue. I personally know of at least a dozen women that went to John privately to bring up problematic things that were said or done by him while he was acting as OSF ED towards women in the community. Some were simple (don’t comment on someone else’s body/breasts/dress PERIOD) some were painful (please don’t interrupt or dismiss or play ‘devils advocate’ to women’s sexual/physical abuse experiences) and some were full fledged profiting and taking advantage of women (please pay your women podcasters EQUALLY, as you have your male podcaster for years) — ALL OF THESE WOMEN went to John and close friends first. ALL OF THESE WOMEN hoped that John would learn and apologize and grow because everyone understands that coming from a patriarchal culture takes time to untangle… I personally sat with him and told him that it could be an easy fix if he’s willing to apologize and actually start treating women better by certain actions. He responded by asking for loyalty– it was completely inappropriate and I STILL gave him the benefit of the doubt and hoped he would LEARN.”
A former moderator at the Mormon Stories Podcast Community writes, ” I was just excommunicated from MSPC–fired as a moderator and blocked from the group–for my comments on Kristy’s post. It is every bit as bad as it seems.”
” I just feel bad. I’m sitting here bawling. I didn’t get to tell the group members how much I love and care about them before I left. They were the reason I stayed. Now, I’ve been thrown out like garbage.”
“Yup. I feel terrible about it. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to the group. I really love everyone in that group. I hope they will stay in touch.”

Kate Kelly remarks in [KK2], “In the past I was known for protecting John Dehlin. People told me about sexist (racist, homophobic) stuff he said or really problematic things he did to others & I shrugged & said, “that’s not my experience with him. He doesn’t do that to me.” I did that for a long time. One woman even came to me & told me she was a former employee of OSF & filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against John Dehlin with her state’s Human Rights Commission. I went to him directly & he convinced me she was “crazy” & her claim had no merit. I continued to support him.”

If I have correctly connected the dots, that woman whom Kelly references (who will be referred to by her message board handle, Rosebud) also posted some things about this experience. Her narrative touches on some of the same themes, but also goes to some darker places. One of the first issues that she addresses is his appropriation of other people’s work to his benefit.

One thing John does is make sure he owns the URL’s and the podcast content created. He uses content creators to make content he will own. At least that’s how he asked me to write up the contracts I created for him. He wanted, at the time, to own what everybody else created so he’d be able to put it on a radio station, Mormon Public Radio, he was dreaming of.
When objections are raised, he changes passwords, revokes rights to websites he owns (despite hard work the content creators have put in and not because there are clear contracts but because they’re on his hosting account) and then tells the creators everything they have done is his. “Bye. Mine. Start over if you don’t want to do things my way.”
———————————-          …       —————————————–
I, for example, called him feeling very upset because I couldn’t handle church anymore and my husband was a TBM with high-functioning autism (although I am had no idea what was wrong at the time) who had driven me into the state many people married to autism come to after so many years (I had already survived 15 years of it by then. I’m surprised I was half alive. Not an easy situation at all.) John took disastrous advantage of that situation and made plenty of money off my work before he got rid of me because I disagreed with how things should be handled, wanted real transparency and a functioning board, and because he said he “couldn’t handle having me around anymore because he cared about me so much???? (complete bs).
This theme of appropriating other people’s work to his financial benefit recurs in Kelly’s response, “Additionally, after years (a decade?) of complete non-involvement whatsoever in the organization, John’s wife Margi has been added on the payroll of OSF as a “co-host” of Mormon Stories. There are some pretty obvious conflicts of interest & nepotism questions raised by hiring your spouse at your non-profit with absolutely no attempt at an outside competitive hiring process. It is unclear if John’s wife Margi is also paid 2 cents per download for Mormon Stories because she is his cohost. Can you even imagine the CEO of the Red Cross (or any other legit non-profit) putting his wife on the payroll of the organization with no competitive hiring process?
That would be a huge scandal & would never fly.”
And also, “Her [Money’s] podcast Mormon Transitions (that shwas the initial podcaster of & worked for months to build) was taken over by John Dehlin’s wife [KK2].”
Although the theme of appropriating others’ work to his benefit and their loss continues, most troubling by far is Rosebud’s claims 1. that she and Dehlin were involved in an emotional affair, 2. that he spoke to her in favor of polygamy while publicly opposing it and 3. that he discussed having her as a plural wife.
At one time he even tried to convince me Snuffer was a well put together man, along with trying to convince me polygamy was a good idea. Seriously. My thought was, “Who does this stiff work on, I’m not dumb and you know what I think about these subjects. I’m a science girl, not a faith girl.” But obviously some of his manipulations were working on me. I now see the vulnerabilities in my past self that he saw in me at the time and took advantage of, but in the moment I didn’t know what was wrong with me and was just desperate and downtrodden and, well, much more capable than he had anticipated. He never expected me to actually succeed despite what he put me through and that, I think, was part of his downfall in my case. I was both vulnerable and not. Both at the same time. My vulnerability came from my environment but I had a level of resiliency, that also came from my difficult environment, he didn’t predict.
When it all played out, I lost my job and the money that and went with it while he played righteous victim and people supported him because he falsely presents himself as a nice guy with a few weaknesses. I’m still coping with financial hardship directly related to what John did to me almost 5 years ago, fwiw….. but that is a very long story. Domino effect. Regardless, this stuff is real and dangerous. (My poor little family…. sigh… but we’re doing better all the time.)
And there was when I left, of course, a long fight over websites, brand names and passwords, all of the stuff John claimed he owned outright because he was the public figure and therefore the nonprofit couldn’t function without him. I had no contracts. I came as a volunteer who trusted him and became more valuable to the organization than he was comfortable with me being. I am had been a stay at home mom before then. I knew very little outside of primary, relief society and coping with my husband. John exploited all of that legally.
Can you elaborate more on this? John hates polygamy just like most exmos.
Yes. He brought up the topics of polyamory and polygamy very carefully, tried to make them sound good and then implied he’d like me to become his polygamous wife. He wanted to convince his wife of the same. Pretty standard polygamy recruitment stuff. I shut him down quickly.
If you were to ask him about it today, he’d probably make the excuse that it was a “dark” time and there was a devil sitting on one of his shoulders or something like that. I don’t know. It’s common stuff Mormon and exMormon women have to deal with often. We’re sealed eternally with the idea that our husbands will have plural wives after death. A lot of Mormon men want to make that happen during this life when they hit their midlife crises. The difference with John is that he’s out playing public anti-polygamy and good husband hero.
Hopefully, for M’s sake he’s more stable now (although I have a hard time believing that). I don’t know but I feel bad for her that he’s pulled her into the public light… especially if he isn’t or especially if he’s had more recent trouble and pulling out the “healthy marriage” card manipulation serves him. Hopefully a public face is what she really wants for herself and isn’t something he’s manipulating her into. He’d be a very difficult husband. Bad choice on her part. But hey, I was deceived by him and I married high-functioning autism in the temple when I was a little girl so I can’t really talk. I’m glad I’m more discriminating today.
This next one develops some more the theme of appropriating others’ work for personal gain and explains how structural features of the OSF may enable this behavior, while also outlining some of the fallout from her involvement with Dehlin.
Historians looking for more information can dig into the Comission for Human Rights in the State of New Hampshire. All files are private so making a request now will get nothing. That was the best way I knew to handle the situation. John held the power cards because I had no claim without a contract or at least six non-contract (or more highly/fairly) paid employees at the OSF.
He gets his work for pennies and then uses the fact that he only pays pennies to protect himself from consequences. I was never fairly compensated for my work or for the harm that came to me afterwards through his retaliations.
Then, my ex used JD as leverage against me and my children during my divorce (autism) while he went to his bishop for “help”… all at the same time JD was manipulating the public pretending he didn’t want his excommunication (that he had actually been preparing himself for for a long time… so he could be a hero like the September Six… remember how he kept talking to the press about them?) and I had a route of communication over the top of local leaders’ heads.
I told KK a little of what was going on… just a little, but I could tell she wasn’t to be trusted and didn’t care anyway. At the time she was only riding the JD publicity train so I kept my mouth shut. No sense in talking to someone who will only use your words against you. She knew what she wanted to hear in 2014/2015: that JD was a good man who has flaws like all of us, a man man deserving of pity and a wide space of acceptance because who among us has been perfect during our own crises? And JD, he had an “answer” for everything devised to keep him in line for his honorable public excommunication. He takes advantage of the “I was a good person going through a crisis, please forgive me,” explanation. People who don’t know him well and fall for that because they don’t comprehend the full scope of his manipulations or because their careers or social lives are dependent on him.
And be careful, if you cross him and your careers or social life are in his hands, like mine were (as he had intended), he’ll rip them away from you and leave you in the gutter. People have good reason to be afraid and to continue to treat him well even when he doesn’t deserve it. Some with less self-awareness than others may protect him without being aware of the fact that they protect him because he’s powerful and protecting someone who has power over you protects the self. Those who are discarded must find their own way.
——————Complete post about emotional affair [RB5]——————-
Fifth Columnist wrote:
Hey Rosebud, rumor has it that JD had an affair with you and that the reason JD met with his SP for so long was to repent of it. Any truth to that?
Good thing I checked back. No more questions after this, please. It’s not that I don’t want to answer, it’s that I do want to remove drama from my life because I have other things to focus on right now. My objective is to protect future victims and fight silence of women in the exMo community. This stuff is rampant. JD’s involvement in it is the OSF board’s problem, now. Not mine.
Yes and no.
Legally speaking, we did not have an affair because, legally, an affair must include sexual intercourse. We were not as chaste as 13-yos at their first junior high school dance.
We did have what I would call an “emotional affair” that I now understand was very predatory. At the time I did not yet comprehend the ways JD was manipulating me or intentionally using my vulnerabilities against me. At the time I knew I was in danger because of his temper, public position and the many public lies he told, but I did not have a full comprehension of the level of revenge, irrationality and anger to which he could rise. (You can find a small taste of it archived on this board in the thread in which he calls me “histrionic.”)
At the time, I believed many of the lies he told me because, at least to some extent, I still believed in parts of public presentation he all puts forward for you. I did not believe as many of his lies as those who weren’t listening to his strategizing behind the curtain, but I still hadn’t completely cottoned on. His manipulations are both sophisticated and obvious. Once you see them, they’re hard to un-see, but before one is aware of them, one wants to believe in him. He has an air or charisma that offers hope of something better and he intentionally uses that to his benefit in order to gain followers.
At the time I was not safe because I understood, to some extent (although not a full extent), what kind of person JD is and was, and what he might do to me because of his guilt. This lack of safety influenced some of my decisions — especially at times he was treating me the most poorly. It affected my ability to escape the situation. In the end, there was no safe escape for me or for the people who had trusted JD to represent their needs to the church. He saved his own neck no matter how many other people he hurt. I honestly think he would have preferred me dead. This is not an exaggeration. I do not now, looking back, believe I had full power to consent to all that occurred. I was in great danger. That does not also mean that he is as guilty as he could be. Consent is not always a black and white thing.
I felt a lot of guilt at the time. I believed it was a terrible affair. I was wrong, both legally and in my perception of what happened. I no longer feel guilty or believe bad things about myself or what occurred between us. I now have compassion for the vulnerable me who was greatly taken advantage of. More than anything, getting away from my ex-husband and experiencing real sex for the first time helped. That happened when I was 40 and definitely changed my perspective on what had occurred between JD and myself.
JD has his own sexual problems that are not my business to discuss here. Now that I understand sex and relationships I am more aware of JD’s problems than I was before.
Legally speaking, there was a major power difference between myself and JD: media access, followers, money, influence, passwords, board access, “public figure” status, etc.
Legally speaking, I lost my job. JD didn’t. There are lots of ways people might try to parse that, but I’ll let it go for now. I put up a fight for the OSF and CTW and managed to save a few things before I exited.
Legally speaking, small businesses can get away with a lot because the government protects them. They get away with more in Utah than New Hampshire. Have an attorney sort it out for you, but it is directly related to Money’s concerns about number of employees and how much they get paid. Fewer and more poorly paid employees = more legal leverage for JD… and he uses/used it. I’m leaving the docs where they are because what is important to me is not drama, but protecting other women in crisis who come to the OSF with good intentions. I’m concerned about other vulnerable women who step into the transitioning Mormon communities hoping to “help” people. That was me when JD started this. He was the instigator. Repetitively. It was not me.
As for the SP, the answer is no. JD was talking to his SP on a weekly basis for a long time before any of the “drama,” as I would put it, began. JD did so because the SP asked him to because of JD’s influence over the MS communities and because JD wanted to catch the SP on the record saying things that would incriminate the church. It was part of his plan all along. Keep in mind, too, that JD is a wishy washy guy: in one place one day and another the next. It’s not helpful to confuse wishy-washy with well-meaning and innocent.
Does he have some moments that are more positive than others? Definitely. Do those more positive moments erase the reality of his strategic maneuvering? Definitely not.
JD is dishonest about details in the “faith reconstruction” podcast because he was creating a narrative to promote his false repentance (should he be called to the carpet by myself or someone in my family in the future) and to help prepare him for his honorable excommunication, finally achieved two years later.
all right. Not my drama anymore please.

I have decided to say one more thing and then will do my best to exit this drama and not read responses here. I do ask that if JD or the OSF responds with its “statement” that someone let me know. I may be ignoring only because I’m trying to shut this out of my life.

(And if anyone on the OSF board reads this, please consider Money’s number and payment of employees issue and how that increased JD’s power over me dramatically.)

This is hard to write, but it needs to be said. Like a lot of women, I have been violently raped more than one time. What JD did to me with his emotional manipulations, and, well, I’m not going to get into everything he did or the whole drama he’s created of his life that I unfortunately am now part of, was far worse than the rapes.

I know there will be those who will argue and defend, say that I am wrong to have experienced my life the way I have, that my response to JD is hardly JD’s “fault,” or whatnot, but if I could have exchanged this experience for a few more violent rapes, I would gladly have done so. There is great harm in emotional, sexual and power manipulation coupled with Internet intimidation, public exposure, and the power games he’s playing with the church.

He is a very dangerous man.

A variety of women have related their experiences with John Dehlin. A number of them have noted that they believe in what his organization claims to be about, but found that the lived reality in that organization contradicted its avowed ideals. Multiple women have noted inequitable pay and use of power within the OSF. A number of women have tried to help John Dehlin overcome serious personal or organizational flaws only to be confronted with demands for loyalty. When private correction is exhausted and they speak out publicly, they frequently find themselves maligned, shunned and persecuted. At least one reports that Dehlin engaged in an inappropriate relationship with her and used his power to severely damage her interests and well-being. The work women do is deserving of the same respect and the same remuneration for the same work.
In the response from the OSF board regarding finances, Natasha Helfer Parker said, “Most of the work people have done has been on a volunteer basis. And as a podcaster myself, I signed on full well knowing that it was going to help me more from a marketing opportunity than being paid per hour spent (that was never part of what I negotiated). Which has been the case.” A 2015 tax document lists her as the president, in which capacity she made 1/15.5 of what John made and almost exactly 1/6 of what Dan made. I have no doubt that it did help her in marketing. However, if there’s one person that is being compensated in terms of fame, brand promotion and free advertising for their work at OSF, that person is probably John Dehlin; and they pay him. Perhaps she should expect more.
Natasha Parker (President, woman) $5877
John Dehlin (Vice President, man) $91308
Dan Wotherspoon (Director, man) $35344
—————Kate Kelly May 21, 2017 response [KK2]———————————
*** I will post the possible action items up front & explain the reason I’m bringing them up below. Please read this entire post before you comment. ***
At the end of the day, I’m an activist & I know that institutions never change unless there are real consequences. As such, in addition to having a public discussion about the problematic role of Mormon Stories in the post-Mormon community, I think only specific action will produce change.
Keep in mind that the following are my own brainstorming, not Kristy Money’s or anyone else’s.
Potential action items:
• BOYCOTT MORMON STORIES: This is pretty straightforward. If you subscribe to any of the podcasts under the Open Stories Foundation (OSF) umbrella, unsubscribe. Stop listening & attending any OSF-sponsored events. Where once the field of podcasters was very empty, it’s now a crowded market with plenty of wonderful, well-produced LDS-themed podcasts. Members of the community could easily support one of the many excellent podcasters in lieu of Mormon Stories. The idea that “the church wins” if OSF is held accountable is a logical fallacy for many reasons, but primarily because there are SO many quality podcasters out there that many talented people can already fill any potential void in this important source of support for many. Boycotting could also extend to being a guest on Mormon Stories. If you are a prominent Mormon, or post-Mormon, you could choose not to go on as an interview subject & seek to support a lesser-known podcast or format.
• DIVEST IN MORMON STORIES: If you contribute a reoccurring donation to OSF, you could stop your donation & redirect that support to another podcaster, perhaps a woman or person of color who is trying to get their podcast off the ground. If you don’t contribute, you could find out who the larger donors to the OSF foundation are & ask them to stop donating. Give them your reasons. I don’t know who all of the large donors are, but Jon Huntsman Jr.’s brother is one example.
• FILE AN IRS COMPLAINT: OSF is a registered non-profit 501(c)3 & therefore is subject to U.S. tax code restrictions because it pays no taxes as an organization & receives tax deductible donations. Things like personal inurement are violations of the law. Ordain Women has only existed since 2014 (as a legal entity) & has already been audited by the IRS. The audit was uneventful (obviously bc there was nothing amiss). A group could collaborate on a complaint to the IRS about OSF. If nothing improper is happening financially, the IRS investigation would conclude with no action.…/irs-complaint-process-tax-exempt-orga…
• FILE A COMPLAINT WITH the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, Psychology: These complaints may be filed anonymously. John Dehlin has a Ph.D. in clinical and counseling psychology from Utah State University, 2015, and takes on private practice clients for what he calls “faith crisis and religious transitions coaching.” However, he did not ever actually complete his requirements to become a licensed psychologist in Utah or elsewhere (hence the reason he calls it “life coaching” not counseling). Some may see the way he presents himself professionally as disingenuous because he is not licensed, but often appears to promote himself as such. Many lay people are confused about what it means to have a degree & what proper licensing is. If folks have serious concerns about his professional status and how he wields it in the community, complaints can be filed online with the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, Psychology anonymously.
To reiterate, while I find it imperative for women to speak out openly about mistreatment, I do not believe online discussions alone will cause any positive change with this specific organization or individual. I have personally seen a consistent pattern of immediate & extreme attempts to sweep under the rug any criticism & not actual change. I think concrete action is needed, in addition to open discussion. I would be interested to hear others’ suggestions for action items in the comments section.
Open Stories Foundation is a non-profit organization run almost exclusively (in concrete decision-making terms) by one man: John Dehlin.
As I brought up a few months back,…/posts/10157888984960226 I believe that Mormon Stories (Open Stories Foundation) compensates women unfairly and takes advantage of the free work that women are willing to do. I was in constant communication with Kristy Money when I posted that OP & thought she had been mistreated. She supported me posting it, but didn’t speak out directly herself because she feared severe retribution… which, sadly, happened anyway. As a result of talking about her compensation to others (even privately), Kristy’s relationship as a podcaster with Mormon Stories ended. Her podcast Mormon Transitions (that shwas the initial podcaster of & worked for months to build) was taken over by John Dehlin’s wife. Yesterday, Kristy was brave enough to speak out about financial abuses of OSF openly herself (post below). Many people immediately attacked her online & belittled her concerns as “drama” but, I believe her concerns are valid. I think we should start by believing women who come forward at great personal cost to report abuse or wrongdoing. So, I’d like to add my personal insight to what Kristy has already stated & make clear that I support Kristy Money 100%.
This issue has been brought to Dehlin’s attention multiple times in private. When I tried to approach it publicly in the fall John publicly posted dozens of hateful comments about me on a running thread he kept editing to add more comments from others that maligned my character (he later was convinced by friends to take down bc it made him look absolutely unhinged). He immediately blocked me on Facebook & tried to villainize me after years & years of loyal friendship because he felt threatened by criticism not coming from “haters” but from friends. Because of that post & that post alone, John called me the “Robespierre of Mormonism.” After Kristy’s post yesterday, he has tried to villainize Kristy, too. That is his general modus operandi & a very transparent attempt to deflect her legitimate concerns.
Since November, John Dehlin has never once since reached out to me, apologized or attempted to make things right.
At the time, we were all his friends.
He needs to understand that criticism ≠ enemy. As someone who is frequently (understatement) trolled, there is a pretty easy formula to decide is someone is a “hater” or is a supporter w a critique made in earnest.
If they have always been your friend, come to your events, support your cause, interact with you as colleagues or volunteers, often make non-negative comments on other social media posts you make (on a picture of your family or happy thing you share) & don’t ONLY show up to drag you when they perceive you’ve done something problematic… chances are, they are your friend & have something valuable to say.
I’ve learned that there is a difference between “haters” & people who are sincerely trying to tell the truth & make things better and, John needs to learn that lesson, too.
Clearly, everyone deserves to be compensated fairly for their work. That fact is not in dispute. That is the crux of the matter. There is absolutely nothing wrong with John Dehlin making a salary as a podcaster. I sincerely hope he does very well. However, as a 501(c)3, full compensation details (not just base salary) should be made transparent. As with the Mormon Church, community members deserve to know the full details of where their money goes.
OSF came out with a (reactionary & defensive) statement about their finances yesterday.…/ The post states that John Dehlin makes an $82.5K base salary, however that does not clarify whether he is additionally as a contracted podcaster @ 2 cents per download for the Mormon Stories podcast he hosts, (or whether that is included in the base salary), or what other compensation he is given, including speaking fees for Mormon Stories retreats or any end-of-year bonuses, etc. I know for an absolute fact that $82.5K is not the total amount he receives from OSF.
Additionally, after years (a decade?) of complete non-involvement whatsoever in the organization, John’s wife Margi has been added on the payroll of OSF as a “co-host” of Mormon Stories. There are some pretty obvious conflicts of interest & nepotism questions raised by hiring your spouse at your non-profit with absolutely no attempt at an outside competitive hiring process. It is unclear if John’s wife Margi is also paid 2 cents per download for Mormon Stories because she is his cohost. Can you even imagine the CEO of the Red Cross (or any other legit non-profit) putting his wife on the payroll of the organization with no competitive hiring process?
That would be a huge scandal & would never fly.
This could be a symptom of Founder’s syndrome, which is common in organizations founded by a single, charismatic individual: OSF also has a very small Board of Directors that includes John Dehlin’s childhood best friend. Putting your wife on staff & your BFF on the board doesn’t bode well for transparency.
In the OSF statement released yesterday, several female employees are trotted out to support the organization. Amy Shoemaker Grubbs, Gina Colvin & Natasha Helfer Parker. Trotting out women to defend against allegations of gender discrimination is EXACTLY what the Mormon Church does. It is a transparent attempt to deflect (as opposed to address) legitimate concerns. Also, it’s just gross. Don’t use women as your human shield. Particularly women who have a financial tie to the organization’s continue success.
I also know for a fact that those who currently podcast were forced in November 2016 (after my original post), to sign new contracts in order to continue. I have seen the contract. These contracts are full of NDAs (non disclosure agreements), stipulate that all IP is property of OSF/ not the content creator, and that they can be terminated at any time for no reason. This puts these women in an almost impossible situation & contractually unable to discuss the true issues. #convenient
I think that it is important to not be neutral when shady things are happening in your own back yard.
In the past I was known for protecting John Dehlin. People told me about sexist (racist, homophobic) stuff he said or really problematic things he did to others & I shrugged & said, “that’s not my experience with him. He doesn’t do that to me.” I did that for a long time. One woman even came to me & told me she was a former employee of OSF & filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against John Dehlin with her state’s Human Rights Commission. I went to him directly & he convinced me she was “crazy” & her claim had no merit. I continued to support him.
I regret it.
In our culture, our brains are already wired by our total socialization under patriarchy to reflexively doubt women’s claims & require supporting evidence for them beyond what we require for men’s claims. Both men & women tend to be more skeptical of women’s accounts than they are of men’s, while firmly believing in their own (non existent) impartiality. And that’s especially true when a woman with little institutional authority speaks up about a man with far superior institutional authority. I want to encourage all whose first inclination might be jumping to Dehlin’s defense or saying things akin to “maybe it’s just a misunderstanding” to LISTEN to the words of Kristy & start off by BELIEVING her version of events. LISTEN to what I am saying & believe me.
You have to actively take steps to overcome implicit bias, like 👏🏼making 👏🏼an 👏🏼active 👏🏼practice 👏🏼of starting by believing women who claim they were mistreated. It’s not our cultural tendency to believe women & we often tend to immediately assume they are “hysterical” “emotional” or “exaggerating.”
Try the opposite!
Take the following position: A woman is making a claim of abuse/ discrimination. I’m going to assume in good faith that she’s telling the truth & find out more.
Don’t throw women under the bus because you enjoy the media product of a man & you trust him. Just don’t. Speak up. Take action.
Note: All Rosebud (RB) posts are contained within the thread, which is rather lengthy.

John Dehlin attacks Scott Gordon for alluding to him


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John Dehlin recently asked for help from redditors in responding to a video recording of a talk by Scott Gordon, the president of FairMormon, a group supportive of the LDS Church. “Need help reviewing this new FAIR presentation in Sweden by Scott Gordon. It has been upsetting to many progressive and post-Mormons in Sweden. Would like to prepare a response with your help for Mormon Stories.

Similar, perhaps, to the time that he asked redditors to defend his wikipedia page against an attack that didn’t actually happen and the time that he asked Facebook friends to find examples of FairMormon engaging in ad hominem that they couldn’t actually find (an amusing but regrettably not sufficiently available read), it is not surprising that he has once again turned to Reddit and Facebook as instruments of problem solving.

So where should I start in discussing this particular happening. Perhaps, by naming it GordonGate or something extravagant like that because nothing is as scandalous as referencing John Dehlin (without ever actually using his name….) in an unfavorable way, or at all really if he doesn’t like you. Let’s start with his Facebook post

Complete current Facebook post as of whenever I copied it:
—————————————–begin quote—————————————–
Scott Gordon (President of FairMormon),

I just watched the youtube video where in a seemingly sneering way you attempt to mock and discredit me as someone who doesn’t believe in God. (15:55 minutes in)

While it is true that I do not claim to know if there is a God….I am unaware of ever denying that there is a God, or stating that I outright disbelieve in God. I certainly have expressed doubts or outright disbelief about the existence of an anthropomorphic God…but that position is not worthy or ridicule, is it? My guess is that most of the Christian world shares this sort of doubt/disbelief.

At present, I remain unsure (but at times hopeful?) that there is some sort of God and/or an afterlife – but regardless, I have found a way to be at peace with this uncertainty, and with the idea that this may be the only life we have. To summarize – my position is one of not being sure about God or the afterlife. It’s certainly not one of denial that God exists — and I have never really felt comfortable with the agnostic or atheist labels.

If you and your friends at FAIR were trying to be objective, you would find many, many statements from me over the past 11 years wherein I describe myself as a believer/hoper of sorts…just not in orthodox Mormon theology. I have also had my moments of doubt…but is it FAIR’s position that it is appropriate to mock/sneer at people who doubt?

Most importantly, I want you to know that I am saddened and find it quite distasteful that you and FAIR would mischaracterize my beliefs in such a calloused way in a clear attempt to smear and malign me (and Mormon Stories Podcast). I feel like you misrepresented me in your public presentation, and it is hurtful. I would respectfully ask you to edit that misrepresentation of me out of your presentation, and to cease mischaracterizing me in the future.

Finally, I was under the impression that FAIR had made changes, and had moved beyond relying upon ad hominem attacks to defend the church. Apparently I am mistaken. Very sad.

(I find your criticisms of Jeremy Runnells and the CES Letter to be even more misleading and distasteful, but I will let Jeremy defend himself).

Please respond at your earliest convenience about my request to edit the video, and please cease mischaracterizing me in the future.


John Dehlin
——————————————end quote——————————————

To begin my comments, I couldn’t help noticing that his second paragraph sounded really familiar:

“While it is true that I do not claim to know if there is a God….I am unaware of ever denying that there is a God, or stating that I outright disbelieve in God. I certainly have expressed doubts or outright disbelief about the existence of an anthropomorphic God…”

After some searching I figured out why, Alma 30:48 “Now Korihor said unto him: I do not deny the existence of a God, but I do not believe that there is a God; and I say also, that ye do not know that there is a God; and except ye show me a sign, I will not believe.”

Is this mocking of me to notice? You know what: we notice what we notice. I frankly wonder if this was deliberate on his part, though I am trying to avoid getting all black-helicopterish here. I personally would have had a hard time constructing something that matched Korihor’s sentence patterns so well, but John’s a talented guy. Now as a point of clarification, if I were to argue that you should disregard him because his speech pattern sounded like Korihor that would be ad hominem. As it stands, it is just a really strange observation that I thought some others would find amusing (though I am confident some will also object to it and that is their right—no one likes seeing their sacred cow maligned) and you ought to evaluate his claims based on their factuality. I would be happy to take you through them:

His main assertion is probably worth addressing right off. He claims, “I just watched the youtube video where in a seemingly sneering way you attempt to mock and discredit me as someone who doesn’t believe in God. (15:55 minutes in)”. I suggest anyone who actually cares about this issue watch the video. I don’t find that Dehlin’s description of events matches the video. Let it speak for itself. For those of you who hate videos, I’ve taken the time to transcribe the portion that described Mormon Stories. Dehlin is never mentioned by name, unlike all of the people John seems intent on maligning or tagging in his posts in order to harass them. To give context for the video excerpt, it looks like Scott Gordon, in this section of the speech, is describing a number of websites that contain viewpoints antagonistic to Mormon truth claims while possibly masking themselves as faithful. This will take you to about the right spot:

15:58 Scott Gordon: “This second example here is called Mormon Stories. It was established by another member. He was counseled by his stake president many many times but he was finally excommunicated this past year. This website mostly focuses on the Church’s stance on social issues such as gay marriage and women in the church. I know this man personally and have had many conversations with him. His sister is a member of FairMormon. He has long believed there is no God. The Church is [a] nice social organization and he’s been attempting to fix it for a long time. So he hasn’t wanted to leave because it’s such a nice group of people. But God doesn’t exist.”  (16:40)

Frankly, I don’t see any examples of sneering or mocking, and having watched the video the tone does not convey either. I am apparently not the only one who thinks so.

cinepro, commenting on the ex-Mormon subreddit writes:

For those who haven’t listened to the talk, it should be noted that out of the 42 minutes, Gordon devotes all of 40 seconds to discussing Dehlin. The CES letter gets 4 minutes, Denver Snuffer gets 50 seconds, and Rod Meldrum gets 2 minutes.

It reminds me of the old canard about there not being any bad publicity; just spell the name right. The next step for Mormon Stories won’t be for Gordon to parse his words in a way that makes Dehlin more comfortable with the precision; it will be to just cut out that 40 seconds and relegate the website/podcast to the unfortunate category of “not worth mentioning.”


Dehlin also claims that Gordon’s statements about him not believing in God “mischaracterize my beliefs in such a calloused way in a clear attempt to smear and malign me”. At least one party who worked closely with Dehlin disagreed with Dehlin’s claim

Rosebud: In the linked post John starts out by publicly getting after Gordon for falsely claiming that Gordon knows John well enough to know that John has long believed there is no God. I can’t tell you how many times the two of them have interacted personally as Gordon claims. I can tell you that Gordon was accurately representing John’s beliefs. John likes to play false victim. Does it a lot.

cinepro also found Dehlin’s claim of misrepresentation unconvincing based on John’s self-description of his beliefs:

Believing that something could exist is not the same as believing something does exist.

For example, I fully acknowledge that Bigfoot could exist. But I do not believe that Bigfoot does exist. If someone were to say “Cinepro has long believed that there is no Bigfoot”, would they be right?

Dehlin is simply delineating between agnostic acknowledgment of a possibility, and atheistic certitude. Neither are a statement of positive belief. Only theoretical and unknowable possibilities. Gordon may have overstepped and failed to couch his paraphrase of Dehlin’s expressed disbelief with the humble waffling of the friendly agnostic, but it’s hardly libelous or demanding of a response.

On his Facebook, even some of his friends thought that he had gone a little over the top in objecting to Scott Gordon’s characterization

——————————————begin quote————————————-
Carl Youngblood: John Parkinson Dehlin I think you protest too much. Scott Gordon’s characterization, while clearly designed to promote his own views, seemed to me way less inaccurate and inflammatory in regards to you than you made it out to be. If I had only gone by your description, I would have assumed that it was a bald-faced lie. What I actually heard sounded much more benign. The most he ever stretched the truth was in implying that he knew you better than he actually did, although even this exaggeration really did nothing to bolster or hinder his argument.

You give too much power to his position by trying to refute it. By seeming to care so much about his characterization of you as an atheist/agnostic, you make it seem as though it is bad to be an atheist/agnostic. You lend too much credence to his assertions.

From my vantage point it honestly seems like you are engaging in oneupmanship with the likes of FAIR. Yes, FAIR is limited and biased, but when you engage in these kinds of petty quarrels, you end up seeming no better. Frankly, I don’t think you should really care about Scott’s opinion of you. And I feel like an honest assessment of his statements is that they are far less inflammatory or inaccurate than you make them out to be, and that your reaction to them reflects poorly on you.

John Parkinson Dehlin: Carl Youngblood – You speak far too easily about things you know far too little about. Walk a mile in my moccasins before you feel comfortable to judge. K brother?

Carl Youngblood: John, what makes you think I know very little? I have followed your podcasts from the beginning. I’ve sat down and spoken with you personally on more than one occasion. I have donated significant amounts of money to you. I have followed FAIR as well. What aspects of my message make it seem like I am uninformed?

John Parkinson Dehlin Carl Youngblood – You may know some things about me, but I’m guessing you don’t know much about what it’s like to be me, or in my position. For my taste, your advice and criticism come across way too glibly for my taste. And they come across as unempathetic.

Carl Youngblood: John I never claimed to know “what it’s like to be [you].” I only told you how your behavior looks to me. You seem to care way to much about what Scott Gordon is saying about you. Given your frequent characterization of the likes of FAIR as deceptive and unhelpful, why would you expect anything different? What does it matter if he thinks you’re an agnostic or atheist? What is wrong with being an agnostic or atheist? As I said, you bolster his position by refuting his claims so vehemently.

John Parkinson Dehlin: Carl Youngblood – When you’ve been publicly maligned across multiple continents on Youtube, and when you’ve become a close friend with me….perhaps you can feel free to speak with me in such a way. But since we’re not close friends, and since I have no sense that you have experienced anything like what is happening here…your advice/perspective comes across to me as glib. And insensitive. And un-empathetic. Just being honest.
——————————————end quote————————————-
John comes strangely close to saying, “How dare you speak to me in such a manner”, which is kind of weird. But hay, no likes being criticized when they are wrong and can’t reasonably defend themselves.
In a conversation on Dan Peterson’s Facebook wall, another individual said, “I did have lunch with Dehlin in 2010. He flat out said that he could not believe that God exists *because* evil also exists.”

So to sum up: it looks like Dehlin’s objection to Scott Gordon wasn’t particularly well-founded. Why then might he want to misrepresent Scott’s comments as being 1. Unkind and mocking, when they really weren’t, and 2. about John, when around 1/60th of the talk referenced John’s products without ever mentioning his name (not a favor John is willing to extend to his opponents)? Clearly, on some level he and FairMormon are two competing solutions to the problem of doubt and disbelief. They differ somewhat, though, because while John’s Mormon Stories organization tends to encourage unbelief and his counseling business is well-situated to profit from it, FairMormon actively seeks to remedy it and help people resolve their concerns. John appears to be engaging in an effort to position himself more favorably against a competing organization, and seems to overstate Scott Gordon’s level of animus and the content of his talk in order to create outrage and consolidate his base: an understandable if not exactly noble goal.

John Dehlin recruits army of meat-puppets to edit his Wikipedia article


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John Dehlin recently posted a curious appeal on reddit, specifically the ex-Mormon subreddit, often the site of curious interactions and discourse [1]. Here is the text of what he wrote, as well as a link to the original:

Reddit Exmos – Please save my wikipedia page from LDS/apologist propaganda (self.exmormon)

submitted 13 hours ago * by johndehlin

Apologists have hijacked the first part of my Wikipedia page. It seriously reads like a propaganda memo from FAIR — quoting Church PR and Scott Gordon in the opening section? Seriously? So frustrating. My understanding is that it’s against Wikipedia rules to edit one’s own Wikipedia page. Consequently, I would love some Reddit Exmo support if anyone is willing/able to help out. I guarantee the person making those edits works either for FAIR or for the LDS Church in some capacity. Ugh.

Here are some good places to reference for starters:

My own side of the story:

The transcript from my interview w/ Bryan King:

NY Times Articles:

RadioWest and SLTrib Content:

John notes that editing one’s own Wikipedia page is against Wikipedia’s policy, and he is right as you can see by reading the page on conflicts of interest. However, this same policy bars Wikipedians from contributing to articles about their friends, which makes the request sketchy based on the expected social associations of the individuals being solicited to help, if they are indeed his friends. If they are not, in fact, his friends, but are only being recruited by Dehlin to make his Wikipedia entry better reflect what John wishes it to say about him (see the link for more on John’s tendency toward censorship) then what is occurring is in fact referred to as “meat-puppetry,” which is also against Wikipedia’s policy. Concerning meat-puppetry, the relevant Wikipedia article states: “Meatpuppetry is soliciting other people to come to Wikipedia in order to influence the editorial process in a topic or discussion.” It goes on to say:

The following behaviors are examples of what constitutes meat puppetry:

Asking another editor to support your position in a dispute. For example:

  • In a content dispute in an article Talk page
  • In a deletion dispute related to an WP:Articles for deletion
  • In an issue under discussion at a noticeboard such as WP:ANI

Asking another person to create a Wikipedia account for the purpose of supporting your own position in a dispute
Assembling a group of editors with the purpose of resolving an on-going dispute in a certain way

What John is doing may also overlap with Canvassing, as described in a related article. However, the point at which this whole situation gets (in my opinion) really interesting isn’t so much in John’s request as when the various ex-Mormon redditors investigate his claims and find that they are factually incorrect. You will please note John’s comment that

“Apologists have hijacked the first part of my Wikipedia page. It seriously reads like a propaganda memo from FAIR — quoting Church PR and Scott Gordon in the opening section? Seriously? So frustrating.”


“I guarantee the person making those edits works either for FAIR or for the LDS Church in some capacity.” In response one experienced editor writes:

John, I took a very close look at the page history going back to September 2013 and I’m going to be honest with you: you have some experienced exmormon Wikipedians who have been babysitting the page that whole time, making sure that inexperienced and overly-apologetics-focused editors have their edits reverted quickly and with clear explanations. There’s one experienced editor who has added two problematic things (the Gordon quote and the line about your sexual orientation), but he’s also adding a lot of helpful stuff. He’s an experienced user who is trusted (and even asked for help) by the exmormon editors watching your page, and he’s definitely not working for FAIR or for the church. I think he was probably not paying attention to how those two edits read when he added them. They definitely read poorly and they’ve been removed now.

As far as including in the lead section the reasons the church gave for your excommunication, that was added by a different wikipedian, one who self-identifies as LDS but who (from his post history) definitely doesn’t seem to be working for FAIR or for the church. Having that info in the lead actually seems appropriate to me, since the lead is supposed to be a quick summary of the article and that is fairly important information in the article. That part of the lead has now been balanced out with what you said about the church’s real reasons for the excommunication, and I’m hoping you’re ok with how it reads now. If you aren’t, please alert me or one of the experienced wikipedians who have been been watching your page, and we can get a group of experienced users together to address any remaining problems.

TL;DR: Stay calm, your page is NOT being hijacked by apologists. There were definitely some problems though. They’ve been addressed now, and any further input you have is welcomed.

John Dehlin can now rest with a little bit more security knowing that the article he thought was written by his ideological opponents (FAIR or unnamed Church employees) was in fact written by ex-Mormons, and was in fact being babysat by them the whole time, and still appalled him. This should probably be a cautionary tale about his use of overly confident language for subjects where he has no real information. This should probably also serve as a cautionary tale to those who rely on the internet for neutral point of view information about John Dehlin that his efforts to censor viewpoints about himself that do not conform to his particular desired image often involve the efforts of a significant number of individuals helping to do the scrubbing.


[1] Not unlike Mos Eisley spaceport, this particular internet domain is well-known as a “wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

To those who believe (or want to) but are worried about John’s excommunication


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I’ve talked to, heard from, or heard about a number of people in the Mormon world who upon hearing about John Dehlin’s excommunication were worried about what it meant for them. You see, in my experience, when we get to know people well enough we find that we are all heretics in our own particular ways. I have my own basket of suspicions about how the world works, how God works, how human and divine things work, and they’re probably different than yours. I’m not going to bother you with my personal favorites today, and you don’t have to share yours with me unless you feel like it, but most of us have some of these. Not all of us have realized the fact.

However, for those who have it can be an uncomfortable experience realizing that we may have some belief that makes us different. And not different in the sense of “You have mutant healing power and I have mutant psychic abilities, let’s all be X-Men,” but more like “I feel like I have an unsightly not-quite-PG tattoo on my forehead and have to wear a low-brim hat around to interact with respectable society and there’s nothing I can do about it, but that tattoo (however unfortunately) nevertheless reflects my honest opinion.” Just to clarify that’s never happened to me so I can only imagine the details of what the whole hat thing would be like, but hopefully you get my point.

I know that some who find themselves in this situation wonder whether they will be disciplined for having ideas that might not match with prevailing views, or perhaps because they from time to time feel the need to talk about them in order to think through and process or evaluate their tentative conclusions—and let’s be honest, our process of charting our way through this world involves all sorts of tentative conclusions and models of reality that contain parts or wholes that may or may not pan out. Why shouldn’t it? In this life we see through a glass darkly. We have these little data points of instantiated living, and sometimes little data points of instantiated divinity that can point the way toward a model of human and divine things, but the model doesn’t come to us fully formed.

To make matters worse much of human experience is ambiguous, and some people’s spiritual gifts are not such as to be able to say “I know” easily, though their spiritual gifts may yet be impressive and even breathtaking in their intended sphere of action. “Knowing” doesn’t always give people compassion as an automatic secondary endowment, and compassion doesn’t always lead easily to “knowing”. And charity is not a mere outgrowth of knowledge, but an independent and glorious gift in its own right, which we are informed is in some respects the greatest of all gifts. It specifically states in the Doctrine and Covenants 88:118 that,

118 And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.

It seems to me that this scripture, which is given in the context of the saints preparing for the Kirtland temple, suggests that while some will gain their perspective of divine things through revelation others will need to do so through study, and that this is designed to be a community endeavor in which all learn together in order to allow all to receive together blessings that no one of them could receive individually. If this is true, then do not both those who are given to know and those who perhaps believe on their words in lieu of first hand experience both contribute what gifts they are given to the building up of the Kingdom of God on the earth and for the establishment of Zion, and are they not all each valued for what they contribute when we reach that state.

It does seem a lot of people express and share their understanding of divine things using terms such as “I know”, and at times may be more liberal with such usage than circumstances warrant, but for those who only desire to believe, Elder Holland’s 2013 General Conference talk should provide some degree of reassurance.

Yet some still worry about whether their current views of divine things will put them at odds with the Church. They worry that their need to reach out to others to think through their thoughts may someday put them some day on the wrong side of Church discipline. I’ve already posted about the idea that the Dehlin discipline was about just asking questions. I would contend that it was also not for having unusual beliefs. For example, his Stake President, shared this perspective in his letter of excommunication,

I want you to know, Brother Dehlin, that this action was not taken against you because you have doubts or because you were asking questions about Church doctrine. Rather, this decision has been reached because of your categorical statements opposing the doctrine of the Church, and their wide dissemination via your Internet presence, which has led others away from the Church.

So if I am reading this right, then just asking questions and seeking their answers through study and faith is thoroughly in bounds and according to this talk by President Uchtdorf, is even an encouraged activity. Having doubts or lack of certainty is likewise allowable, and not to be driven off or condemned, as I read in this talk by Elder Holland, which I suppose I already mentioned above. Where you will get into trouble is in making public, categorical statements designed to persuade others away from the Church after refusing to make adjustments when counseled by your leaders.

Apostasy refers to Church members who: “1, repeatedly act in clear, open and deliberate public opposition to the Church or its leaders; or 2, persist in teaching as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority; or 3, continue to follow the teachings of apostate cults (such as those that advocate plural marriage) after being corrected by their bishops or higher authority.” (General Handbook of Instructions, 10-3.)

Another point that I want to make very clear for those in the situation that they have a number of beliefs that they think might be concerning to their leaders is that essentially no one who is disciplined for apostasy is disciplined without first being warned by their priesthood leaders that they have stepped over the line. Dehlin’s former Stake President spent what appears to be years visiting with him for an hour a week despite him clearly having heretical beliefs. Dehlin’s current Stake President, who did ultimately excommunicate him included this language in the letter in which he outlined his concerns, which I see as absolutely critical to understand. After outlining what the Stake President understood as the necessary steps of repentance, he writes,

I am asking for your absolute commitment to these steps—in both word and deed—these steps are essential for you to be able to center yourself in the gospel. I stand ready to assist you in this effort. If you choose to follow this counsel, I promise that you will feel increased light in your life and that the doubts you currently have will begin to dissipate. I also want you to know that I have been given the priesthood keys to help you and have prayed daily about this matter. I have not approached this lightly.

[….then slightly later…]

Please let me know whether you are willing to accept my counsel regarding the repentance process as outlined above if so then you should view yourself on informal probation as you move through the repentance process. We will need to meet often to review your progress. I commit to you my time my attention and my love as we do so.

What I want to bring out in this letter is that even after everything that John has done—and let’s not belabor the point, but the list is substantial—the Stake President still has as his principle focus helping John repent and come into full fellowship in the Church. If John is willing to repent, and begin to take the steps necessary to reconcile himself with God, and correct his relationship with the Church then he need receive no more official sanction than informal probation. His Stake President offers him love, hope, encouragement, and his embrace, as well as that of his Ward and Stake, and if not he offers him the next most loving thing, which is release from covenants that he is not willing to keep. But his invitation isn’t to leave, but to stay, and let love, faith and atonement do their work, until the clouds of this dark mortal glass begin to clear enough to admit the light.

To you who are reading this who were concerned about you being next on some list of undesirables, I’m going to say I think you probably aren’t because even this fellow whose discipline made you feel that way wasn’t undesired. John Dehlin, for all of his faults, was beloved, and out of that love was invited to repent. When he turned down that invitation, those who were responsible for caring for him spiritually did the next most loving thing because that was what was compatible with John’s agency. I expect that his Stake President, and a great many others are still praying for his well-being, and for him to receive all of the blessings that he is willing to, and waiting, with Christ, with open arms to receive him should he choose to return and repent.

I, at least, count myself in that category.

John Dehlin and the art of interpersonal terrorism


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In writing about John Dehlin, I’ve often been impressed by his strategic thinking, his planning, his craft, his execution of complex plans. He is by all means an impressive human being, with tremendous (if somewhat misspent) potential that I hope he will ultimately use for good, but today I am feeling something more akin to disgust. I’ve been reading over the transcript that he released on Tuesday, 10 February, 2015, of his conversation with his Stake President. I predicted prior his mentioning that he had done so that he had taped the whole thing and would release a complete transcript and ultimately a recording for those keeping track of my psychic friends score. Anyway, I’ve been looking over the transcript, and something that caught my attention was this:

Bryan King: We  were  both  in  the  OR  today  and  we  were  passing  and  mike  mentioned  to  me  and  said  will  you  meet  with  John  and  his  wife  this  evening  and  I  said  yes,  that’s  true,  I  do.  And  he,  he  mentioned,  the…  an  observation—the  toll  this  has  taken  on  your  family.  And  how  he  has  seen  that  weight  and,  and  I—and  I  stopped  to  reflect  for  a  minute  and  I  just  briefly  shared  with  Mike  that,  that  I  equally  have  shared  some  of  that…  responsibility  and  some  of  those  experiences—while  mine  my  not  have  been  as  open  and  as  public  as  yours;  ummm…  mine come  in  emails,  messages  left  on  the  answering  machines  at  work,  that  have  not  always  been  very  supportive.
John  Dehlin: I’ve  never  given  your  information  to  anybody.
Bryan King: It’s  easy  to  find  out.  And  it’s  easy  to—
John  Dehlin: I’ve  never  encouraged  anyone  to  contact  you.
Bryan King: And  I  don’t  believe  you  have.  I  don’t  believe  in  any  respect  that  you  have
John  Dehlin: I’m  sorry  if  you’ve  received  any…
Bryan King: And  I  full  well  knew  as  we  embarked  down  this  path  that  that  would  be  something  that  would  happen.  Ummm,  it’s  unfortunate  because  my  family’s  been  affected  just  as  your  family’s  been  affected;  in  ways  that  have  extended  even  beyond  the  little  area  in  which  we  live.  The  internet  is  a  world-­‐wide  tool  that  basically  exists  and  can  affect  people  all  over  the  world.  So  I  just  want  you  to  know  that  since  we  last  met  that  there  has  not  been  a  day  go  by  on  more  than  one  occasion  that  I  haven’t  reflected  upon  our  association  and  the  decisions  that  may  be  before  us  and  what  we  do.  So  I  have  taken  this  with  every,  every  measure  of  sincerity.

Apparently, President King was receiving harassment from various corners on a daily-or-more basis. John indicates that he has not at any time disseminated the Stake President’s information, and appropriately expresses his condolences. The Stake President then talks about how rather than become bitter about the abuse he’s receiving from John’s followers he has used it as an opportunity to deeply consider the matter that is before them. If anything that is a lovely example of all things turning to good for those who love and serve God, and the way that love can transform even hateful actions into something productive.

It is also seems clear in this passage that John knows that it would be wrong to share the Stake President’s information or encourage people to contact him or subject him to abuse. All of which makes what happens subsequently all the more despicable. Several commenters have mentioned to me that an early version of the press release post on Mormon Stories, posted January 15, 2015 contained a link to the Stake President’s healthgrades account, which is a service that allows people to anonymously rate physicians. I found this puzzling, and perhaps even apocryphal, but looking where they pointed it me, it was also, regrettably, absolutely true. If you want to see just go to the link in the middle of this paragraph and exam the embedded link in Bryan King’s name. I would ask you to please not attempt to manipulate it in any way. Opposing lies do not counterbalance each other, and rating a business that you have not patronized is dishonest regardless of which way you are voting.

Let’s talk about why this is a problem. We have a mental health professional, John Dehlin, who is providing his followers with the information, linked to Bryan King’s name, where many of them would click even before they knew where they were going out of sheer curiosity, and would then find themselves confronted with an opportunity to retaliate for any bad feelings they may have toward the Church, the concept of Church discipline, their feelings of frustration with a faith crisis, or whatever else might be on their minds. Dehlin knows that many of them have been harassing his Stake President anyway—Dehlin has already expressed his condolences for it—so making his information available is sufficient to ensure that they will, based on nothing more than the provision of the link, damage his Stake President’s reputation, not as a counselor or theologian or anything related to the disciplinary action, but as a medical professional. It appears that Dehlin is using the information that he has learned from his interaction with his Stake President (that King is being harassed already and that his family is suffering with him) to deliberately hurt him in a way to which he knows King is vulnerable.

Is it ethical to encourage your followers to harass someone by making false reports about their work? This isn’t the sort of thing that happens by accident. It seems unlikely that Dehlin’s computer just threw a link to Bryan King’s healthgrades account into Dehlin’s document which he was preparing for public release, so I don’t know how to read this except as a deliberate attempt to harass and economically harm John’s Stake President. I am not sure it’s okay for a mental health professional to bully another person this way. I’m frankly disappointed in what he’s done here because at a certain point these sorts of activities begin to damage his ability to be trusted by others not to mistreat those with whom he interacts in profoundly inappropriate ways.

[Note/edit: If anyone knows John and can get his side of the story on this, and he is willing to tell us what happened I’m all for hearing both sides.]

[Note/edit: I received a note indicating that John Dehlin has responded giving his take on what happened, I include it below]

John Dehlin For the record, in the fog of media attention, reporters kept asking me how to get a hold of President King, and so I wanted to include his contact info in the press release in some sort of way such that they could get a hold of him if they needed to. I had zero intent of negatively affecting his job. I googled his name, and found the quickest link that I could find. Looking back, it was a dumb move. But as soon as someone alerted me to this fact, I took it down. I have never had any intent of harming President King’s livelihood.

John’s claim that he googled the name is reasonable. Although positioning off Google results varies from person to person, when I google the Stake President’s name it was one of the top two results. He also claims that the media kept asking how to get a hold of President King. We know that John and President King have been in contact via email, and if he wanted to get the Stake President’s phone number: there’s an app for that, but I respect him not using it for business purposes since that is not its intent. However, the first listing on the Google search as I saw it contained a business listing with a phone number, which seems like a more logical choice than a healthgrades account. Additionally, he mentions confusion related to a fog of media attention, which would suggest that the decision was made hastily at some point after the initial release of information to the media. It is not unreasonable that he would have been in ongoing contact with the media, and that they would have made such a request at some point in the process. However, at least in terms of what he has posted on the Mormon Stories site, the initial post contains the link (according to the Wayback Machine). If there was an earlier version that did not contain it, it is not in evidence. However, the story is plausible if he has been crafting his press release after conversing with several members of the press. The next 9 captures also include the link:

(These are according to whichever time scheme the Wayback Machine uses, so not Utah time)

20:10:00 January 15, 2015
23:02:02 January 15, 2015
1:26:31 January 16, 2015
2:59:40 January 16, 2015
7:13:53 January 16, 2015
10:00:00 January 16, 2015
12:32:49 January 16, 2015
16:15:49 January 16, 2015
9:34:00 January 17, 2015
16:15:25 January 17, 2015

The correction is finally made at
18:12:09 January 17, 2015

It is thus removed between 1.83 and 1.91 days after it initially appeared. These were likely the two days with the largest traffic as well. If, as he has stated it was at this point that someone notified him of it, it took a surprisingly long time for anyone to notice that bothered to tell him.

This, at the least, represents a serious lapse in judgement. Was it something more? Maybe, but caution is warranted in interpreting the data.

(I’ll keep you posted if any further information becomes available.)

Index of current posts on John Dehlin


It recently occurred to me that there are a lot of posts here on the DearJohnDehlin blog about a lot of different topics, and it may not be as easy to find things as would be preferred, so here is an index to make things easier, together with links and brief descriptions. I will try and keep it updated as I go, and probably also improve the descriptions when there’s time.

Thanks for reading!
Dehlin leaks his Stake President’s information in order to ensure he gets harassed leading up to his disciplinary hearing including economically
Discusses Dehlin’s use of selective quotations from larger documents in promoting the narrative that he is being excommunicated for supporting gay marriage and women’s ordination.
Analysis Dehlin’s financial activities and the claim that he has sacrificed large sums of money in order to help people when he could otherwise been more prosperous.
Discussion of some of Kate Kelly’s writing/behavior.
Rebuts the claim that he has been disciplined for “asking questions”.
Analyzes some economic factors affecting the Mormon Mental Health Association which Dehlin unfolded, and makes some statements about questionably ethical activities of his.
Respons to the idea that church leaders are attempting to deceive people about the true reasons for his discipline.
Responds to the NPR article including some polygamy points.
Discusses Open Stories Foundation Financials.
Rebuts Dehlin’s claims about gay suicide and Mormon depression.
Discusses Dehlin’s process of creating and promoting false narratives with focus on his allegation that he was part (with Kelly) of a coordinated purge and that he was being disciplined for promoting gay marriage and women’s ordination.
Rebuts the claim that Dehlin is a proponent of open free discussion. Comment section contains many examples of people who have been banned for making reasonable faithful comments or otherwise mistreated on his sites and personal Facebook page.
Post responding to his blog on mixed orientation marriage statistics arguing against his methodology.
Discusses Dehlin’s preparations to exit prior to his being summoned to a council.
Discusses Dehlin’s comments in which he attacks the Holy Ghost as a source of informative revelation.
Dehlin’s attack on the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham, and ad hominem toward those who believe is discussed.
John Dehlin claims that his Stake President was too intimidated by his male power to discipline him.
Dehlin attack an Ensign article on Facebook while arguing against something other than the article is actually saying.
Dehlin misquotes B. H. Roberts because he used Jeremy Runnells as a source.
Dehlin asks people to= tape visiting authorities against their wishes.
Dehlin gets in a fight on an anonymous message board and does a few questionably ethical things.

John Dehlin and document releases


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I recently blogged about a pattern that is often seen in John Dehlin’s releases of information in which he selectively releases information in order of how favorable it is to him in order to create false narratives. The previous post described a pattern for the release of entire documents, which I will cite here for reference:

1. Separate the convenient from the inconvenient data, set the inconvenient data aside for later
2. Wait for the narrative to gel (and for people to stop paying attention)
3. After narrative has thoroughly gelled, use the inconvenient data to create a garnish of truth and maintain your credibility (issue minor retractions and clarifications that you can use to cover yourselves if versions of the truth that are incompatible with your narrative emerge)
4. Let the topic die with your version of the events baked into the story, while other competing and potentially more accurate versions of events wither on the vine

If you haven’t yet read that post, you may want to refer to it as it sets the table, so to speak, for this one both by illustrating the process and by illustrating the specific questionable narrative—that he is being disciplined primarily for his support of women’s ordination and gay marriage—that this post will discuss. This post will discuss a tool that is related to baking a narrative, but slightly different. We will once again watch a master at work, but this time instead of looking at releases of an entire document we will focus on how to selectively release parts of a larger document. The four principles are similar, but some of the finer points differ a bit, and the risks differ slightly.

So what is this about? Recently John attempted to rebuild the story he wants told about his disciplinary hearing after too many people (including apparently Church PR questioned it) by releasing quotes from his Stake President. He has promoted this narrative previously by releasing entire documents. This time he has done so by releasing selective quotations.

The question that comes to mind first is “Quotations from what?” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it seems likely that he recorded his conversations with his Stake President without his informed consent, made a transcript of it, and that he looked through it to see what would place him in the best light and the Church in the worst light and chose which narrative to focus on accordingly. How his Stake President may have felt when he discovered that someone with whom he supposed he was having a cordial and confidential conversation had recorded him and planned on posting his off-handed thoughts on the internet all while smiling a nice smile, and bringing up various topics that he wanted to have a good gotcha quote on we may never know. And based on the fact that he apparently did this, I suppose that John Dehlin doesn’t particularly care.

What he apparently did with the transcript is called quote mining, which one of his supporters recently condemned in his blog post [1] calling proof-texting, but depending on what you are trying to show this may be an appropriate or inappropriate research approach. For example, quote mining to show that someone has at some point said something (to show existence) has merit, doing so to argue that a particular document or encounter consisted mainly of some particular topic or set of topics (to show dominance or significance) is flawed research methodology at the least, and a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts and their significance at the worst. Which is Dehlin doing? We may be able to evaluate this hypothesis if he actually releases the full unedited recordings if indeed that is the source of these purported quotes. Anything other than that would be basically meaningless except as propaganda.

So what do we learn from the quotes that he has provided? Well, first let’s add the context that will help us to understand the quotes. In order to do that, here are the correspondence between President King and John Dehlin. These quotes are all alleged to be (and because it is tedious to write “alleged” everywhere I am not going to bother with it for the rest of the post so just imagine it in the appropriate locations if you wish) from his August 7, 2014 meeting with his Stake President, where they discussed the Stake President’s August 7, 2014 letter. A few days after this meeting, Dehlin sent a letter to his Stake President giving his gay issues and women’s ordination heavy accounting of what went on in their meeting, which the Stake President replied to on August 11, 2014 expressing concerns about what Dehlin had written, which in retrospect seem to have been very prescient:

Dear Brother Dehlin:

Thank you for sending the letter from you and Margi. I fear that in my willingness to engage in a discussion on all of the issues that you chose to address during our lengthy conversations, the direction of my true concerns may have not been clear. As the letter I gave you states, I am focused on five core doctrines of the Church: (1) The existence and nature of God; (2) Christ being the literal Savior of the World and his Atonement being absolutely necessary to our salvation;(3) the exclusive priesthood authority restored through the Church; (4) The Book of Mormon as scripture and the revealed word of God; and (5) the governance of the Church by doctrine and revelation through inspired leaders.

….[ellipses mine]

Finally, as I read your response, it reinforces my concern that your letter is an attempt to produce an official document of what occurred during our meetings. I feel that it is impossible to fully recount the spirit and context of our discussions in a written document. I hope that in the spirit of confidentiality, you will not be releasing it to the media and posting it on your web site. I hope that I am mistaken about this, because I believe it would undermine the trust we need to have in order to move forward. But if you nevertheless decide to post your letter, I hope that you will have the fairness to post mine along with it, making clear that I presented my letter to you at the beginning of our meeting and that it contains the true focus of my concerns about your conduct.

In this document the Stake President makes several things clear the most relevant one being that he sees the 5 points that he indicates as the main reasons, and the most important reasons, and the focus of John’s disciplinary hearing. In the absence of a very strong reason to disbelieve him, I would tend to accept his statement at face value. What point would there be in his lying to Dehlin about the topic of his disciplinary hearing. If he did, then this would become obvious when at the hearing itself he was convicted for causes different than those which were represented. The entire High Council would have to either approve of trying someone on false pretenses, which would not be at all characteristic of any dozen High Priests I am aware of, or the Stake President would have to try him on the charges listed in the letter. So from a practical perspective Dehlin’s accusation that the court is really about something other than the letter claims is patently absurd and designed to be believed only by those who do not understand the Mormons actually take this stuff seriously, and possibly his followers.

The next point of interest is that President King makes it clear that Dehlin’s letter reflects topics that Dehlin himself brought up.

“I fear that in my willingness to engage in a discussion on all of the issues that you chose to address during our lengthy conversations, the direction of my true concerns may have not been clear.”

He probably fears that they have not been clear because the letter Dehlin has just written to him reflects neither the President’s focus nor the tenor of their conversation. Instead it reflects questions Dehlin raised in order to have quote-worthy material and to claim that his discipline focused on a more sympathy attractive set of topics. Thus it seems likely that the material that Dehlin has now released are the particular quotes that he has specifically elicited, and which the Stake President has already indicated do not reflect the meeting.

With context established, let’s get down to looking at the quotes:

Brian King: You could go back look at your numerous podcasts and know the ones you think are controversial or not.
John Dehlin: So, take down any controversial episode.
Brian King: Yes. That would be the thing to do.
John Dehlin: Is that what you mean?
Brian King: Well I don’t want to appear, in any form or print, saying that that’s exactly what I said, because I would like you to move your personal testimony in line with us being able to resolve your questioning….

The Stake President begins with “You could…” It sounds like the response to a question. So what is the question that Dehlin has asked which likely elicited this response. Dehlin doesn’t tell us, understandable given that he wants to make it appear as though the Stake President is suggesting this out of the blue. Perhaps the questions was “What would restitution look like for podcasting a bunch of anti onto the internet?” The President’s response is perfectly reasonable in that context, and given that Dehlin has at times indicated that he believed his podcast took more people out of the Church than it helped stay it would be reasonable if he were interested in repenting that they would discuss the need to make restitution for the harm that he had done to others. The step of removing those materials that were calculated to offend is an obvious and appropriate choice if he wants to repent and be at peace with the Lord.

Clearly also President King’s request that his remarks not be published was treated with blatant bad faith.

John Dehlin: “What do you mean by “stop promoting groups or organizations that espouse doctrines” (referring to King’s August 7, 2014 letter)?”
Bryan King: “I think that’s inherent, you know those, those that would be supporting of Ordain Women.”

Here he has included the question, which Dehlin posed as it wouldn’t make sense otherwise, which is helpful. Dehlin has been heavily involved in promoting a number of such groups including the Post-Mormon Relief Society, the Phoenix Open Mormons, and promoting organization of online wards, as well as a number of anti-Mormon authors and operators of anti-Mormon ministries (if you want examples just comment). If Dehlin wishes to repent and mend his relationship with God, part of that process would typically involve making restitution for promoting those who wish to injure, embarrass, or damage the Church. Based on the fact that they were talking about this I assume that he represented himself as at least interested enough in repentance to have the conversation.

Dehlin provides a single quote indicating some concern with Ordain Women. However, this isn’t the most important question. If Dehlin wanted to prove existence of the concern this would be sufficient, but his Stake President hasn’t denied the existence of the concern only that it is of relatively main significance, as illustrated in the excerpts from the letter quoted earlier. That Dehlin elicits this as a clarification suggests that the Stake President might not even have brought that particular organization up by himself, which suggests that he didn’t actually see it as a priority. If you were the Stake President and wanted to help John Dehlin repent would you or would you not tell him the things that you were most concerned with without him having to ask for clarification?

Bryan King: “Same-­‐sex marriage is not in harmony with the teachings of the church. So if you come out openly in support of [same-­‐sex marriage], that is a problem.”

First, I must say that I found the Stake President’s contextually awkward use of “come out” amusing. All work and no play and so forth. Dehlin gives us this quote without any context, and if I may speculate a bit I think there is a very plausible reason why he doesn’t give us that context. Perhaps he is discussing a hypothetical. Notice the conditional phrase “if you come out…” This suggests and if this is correct it is frankly kind of damning to Dehlin’s narrative that whatever the Stake President is concerned with hasn’t actually happened yet. Thus while the Stake President acknowledges that some hypothetical action of John’s in which he, in the future, comes out in support of same-sex marriage in some more significant way than he heretofore has it could become problematic.

On the other hand he could be read as speaking to a general principle in which case the sense of the quote would be if someone comes out in favor of SSM that is a Church member this is a problem, with the implication that Dehlin has and knows it, but this reading is weakened by a lack of context and a lack of any specific application of the idea to something Dehlin has done a problem which Dehlin has caused by not giving a contextualized quote.

Given his history of selective document releases, I would not be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt on these quotes, but lets assume that they mean exactly what he says ad argumentum. The next question is what does it mean?

The answer is that we can’t with the evidence that is available. I know that is disappointing, but let me clarify. John hasn’t given us anything with this release that we didn’t already know from August 10, 2014 letter, which John alleged addressed those things at some point, and which his Stake President indicated to him was not representative of the conversation. John’s subsequent release of a very small number of quotes—one a piece for the two items (same-sex marriage, and Ordain Women) he is currently claiming are the main reason for his discipline—does nothing more than minimally instantiate the claims, and frankly if this is all that he has that supports those allegations than I hope his followers will have the integrity at the end of all of this to call him a liar. If he was smart, which honestly, I’ve gained a certain amount of respect for the man as a strategist in the process of analyzing him, and I would almost be embarrassed for him if he disappoints me on this point, he’ll have at least one more set of quotes that will make it so when he later releases the audio for the rest of the conversation he isn’t pilloried. That having been said, in order to demonstrate that women’s ordination and gay marriage were major themes in these conversations and main causes of his discipline a commanding portion of the conversation, which was clearly lengthy would have to reflect this reality. I don’t believe this will be the case, and I am looking forward to seeing the document release.

When the release occurs (provided that he follows the protocol for how to bake a narrative that I posted) it will occur after enough time has passed that it can’t usefully become part of a news story in the initial burst of stories. This will allow the appearance of sharing the honest truth without having to deal with the facts in an even-handed way. It’s masterful really, like watching a well-played game of chess unfold, with the caveat that one of the players apparently has a different set of rules.


[1] Passage from Tom Grover’s blog in which he praises Dehlin as more or less the informational Messiah. “That’s the real reason John is being excommunicated. In a twist of irony, the man who has helped Mormons navigate the effects of proof-texted history is the target of proof-texted accusations. Of ten years of John’s work, the accusers have hand picked, and proof-texted a few Facebook comments as the basis to terminate John’s membership in the Church. These Facebook comments, like any Facebook comments, were not polished thoughts but informal, undeveloped statements. Of course, that’s a flimsy pretext.  John is being excommunicated for refusing to deny the existence of the chasm.”

John Dehlin on following the profit


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John Dehlin recently got really testy with Peggy Fletcher Stack when she dared report on his finances at an inconvenient time, and wrote a blog post rebutting her article and expressing his objections to such things being reported instead of what he wanted reported, even going so far as to employ ad hominem circumstantial to cast doubt on her motivations.

I can also imagine how many active, faithful LDS Church members will respond to an article written primarily about my compensation(???) on the eve of my disciplinary council.  Within the active, believing LDS context (Peggy’s context, frankly), it could easily be interpreted as an attempt to elicit shame and ill-will, given our tendency as a church to condemn those who profit from religious endeavors (i.e., “priestcraft”). Again, I do not necessarily believe that this was Peggy’s intent, only that this will likely be the reaction for many, which (again) raises questions about the timing of the article.

So what exactly does Peggy’s context have to do with her reporting? Ad hominem circumstantial is where you basically say that someone’s context invalidates their opinion. Because Peggy, according to Dehlin (I have no interest in her religious activities per se and haven’t researched them, though I don’t know that he has either) comes from an activie believing LDS context, this could be interpreted as an “attempt to elicit shame and ill-will, given our tendency as a church to condemn those who profit from religious endeavors (i.e., “priestcraft”).” An attempt to shame someone would certainly be dismissed as invalid by Dehlin’s audience, so this is in effect an argument ad hominem circumstantial where Dehlin indicates that her argument should be dismissed because of her “active, believing LDS context”. It is an imperfect example, remaining at the level of insinuation, where frankly Dehlin has accomplished some of his best rhetorical work. He reinforces the shaming accusation later on in his post:

I do not believe that non-profit employees should be publicly shamed for what they are paid (not that this was necessarily Peggy’s intention…only that it could appear this way to others).

Repetition matters for rhetoric, and this is a fine example.

So why is it that reporting on his income and prospects prompted his outrage. I would suggest that there are three reasons:

  1. Priestcraft is a very reasonable objection to what he is doing and this could give quite a bit of impetus to that narrative
  2. His organization is supported largely by those who dislike the Church and this relationship is evident in Stack’s article
  3. It risks demonstrating that he is profiting tremendously from his disciplinary council and thus chasing the money by making sure it is in the news
  4. It risks damaging his narrative that he is sacrificing in order to help people

So, in order….

1. Priestcraft

A classic quick description of the business of priestcraft is given in Alma 1:5-6

Alma 1:5 And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money.

And he began to be lifted up in the pride of his heart, and to wear very costly apparel, yea, and even began to establish a church after the manner of his preaching.

On of the most troublesome aspects of priestcraft is that those who practice become beholden to the desires of their clients. It may very well be both the personal spiritual hazard to the practicioner as well as the hazard to those they practice upon that leads it being condemned.

2 Nephi 26:29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.

If the support is coming from the anti- and ex- Mormon communities then those are the clients whose interests he places first. John, in his end of the year address specifically indicated that his businesses would be transitioning to serving primarily those who had left the Church and those who have left significant aspects of their belief in it, and there is good evidence to support that these are his primary benefactors/bond-holders.

2. Funding

How can we know who funds Mormon Stories? Well, when John shifted in a more Church-positive direction leading up to Greg Smith releasing his lengthy review of John’s activities, we know that he took some financial hits in order to do it. It’s relatively simple calculus if an increment in apparent faithfulness leads to a decrement in funding then the people who primarily fund you have fundamentally anti-Mormon interests.

3. Disiplinary Hearing Bump

Furthermore, Stack’s article makes the point that donations actually jumped when news of his discipline was made public. Again, if something happens that indicates a decrement in faithfulness, it results in an increment of funding for him and his enterprises. Who do you suppose is funding that? There are undoubtedly some of his followers that bought the notion that he was being persecuted for asking questions, but the majority of the funding bump undoubtedly came from those who oppose the Church are were interested in supporting Dehlin in giving the Church a black eye. This in fact gets more interesting when we realize that all of the discussion of numbers relates to John’s 2013 takings, which in case anyone missed it were approximately $90000. If we consider his statement, apparently made to Stack, that there has been a large increase in donations since news of his possible discipline became known then it is likely that he easily made six figures in 2014, and maybe quite a bit more. Once direct personal gifts, in kind gifts, and any non-Open Stories Foundation sources of income are considered, the conclusion that he is living rather well financially on his followers’ money is simply unavoidable, and I will be interested to see people’s reaction when he releases some of these figures in order to comply with the law related to non-profits, which brings me to my final point this time.

4. The notion that he has sacrificed greatly and suffered loss for the benefit of others deserves to be reevaluated

He makes this claim often enough because he wants to deflect suspicion of primarily capitalist motivations in his work. This quote, from his response to Stack is typical.

Having given up six-figure-salaried and fully-benefited jobs at Microsoft​ and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)​ to do my work with Mormon Stories, I believe that it would have been worth mentioning in the article that I could have made (and still could make) much, much more money through other channels.  All in all, I do not believe it a stretch to estimate that I have forgone well over $1 Million in compensation over the last ten years as the result of my decision to go back to graduate school, and to start Mormon Stories (with a wife and four children courageously at my side).  Nonetheless, I have intentionally chosen to make much less money to try to alleviate suffering and promote health within Mormon culture through my work with the OSF.  I am proud of this decision, even though it has resulted in a significant financial sacrifice for me and my family.


Now I don’t blame him for being capitalist, I also don’t blame him for wanting to place himself in a good light, but lets evaluate these statements a little bit more critically than he probably wants us to. Forgoing $1000000 in compensation over the course of ten years is his claim. That amounts to something like $100000, a nice well-paying job. In fact, he made roughly 10% less than this in 2013 through his foundation alone. Rumor has it that he was able to move to his Utah home in a rather exclusive area without the need for a mortgage, which I expect would enable him to live on a much lower income at a much higher standard of living than would otherwise be the case. In addition he also enjoyed an attractive mixture of fame, adulation, influence, travel, access to authors and celebrities, reporters, and celebrity status himself. So even though it resulted in significant financial sacrifice for his family, if one considers as of 2013 a 10% reduction significant, it certainly was a nice experience for him. I doubt that the experience of his advocacy for unbelief was as great of an experience for his family, and he has hinted that it generally wasn’t a very positive for them elsewhere (references available on request; post to comments if you want them).

Now certainly it wasn’t this profitable initially, and I don’t want to overstate the case, but if we consider the value of his as yet unrevealed 2014 receipts, and average this over the period of time, it might seem rather low. However, theirs this whole business of him three different jobs in order to devote his life to pain relief via podcasting. The three jobs that are mentioned (only two in this particular post, but the third often enough) are working at Microsoft, working at USU, and working at MIT, the latter two apparently having to do with developing Open Course Ware type programs. According to this article on John Dehlin from Wikipedia he left a job at Microsoft that he had held for 7 years and moved to Logan in 2004. It is understandable he might want to live there as they have relatives there. He then began working at USU on Open Course Ware working for two years on this project while he “completed a Master of Science degree in Instructional Technology in 2007. In the midst of this, in 2005, without apparently quitting his job, he started Mormon Stories. In January 2007, MIT hired Dehlin as the Director of the OpenCourseWare Consortium,” and we aren’t told exactly when and how this last one ended, but it clearly started after Mormon Stories had already begun. What I see here is that he apparently left jobs in 2004, 2007, and whenever his MIT gig ended in order to “do my work with Mormon Stories”. Since then he has been working on a degree in psychology.

So let me put this another way, if someone (not necessarily John) starts a podcast and works, say 50 part time jobs in sequence while their podcast enterprise picks up steam and begins to produce sizable income, can they legitimately say they sacrificed fifty jobs in order to serve their listeners. It seems to me like he left a job at Microsoft for a job at USU, and then a job at MIT, and got two advanced degrees in between. Isn’t going back to school normally a costly venture? I’m honestly impressed with his accomplishment of getting a degree while working, and I think it deserves admiration, and undoubtedly it was a difficult project doing all of this while coordinating podcast speakers and so forth, but because of his podcast efforts he has made less of a sacrifice than he would have had to make if he had gone back to school under normal circumstances, and he held at least two lucrative careers (at least as he describes them in that same period) apart from his podcasting income.

All businesses have start-up costs, and I am confident he understood this from the beginning, but I don’t think there is any particular need to make the start-up costs of his business, which currently appears to yield very nice returns as a personal sacrifice any more than anyone else on Wall Street or who goes back to school to get an education. It’s a nice noble story, but it seems to me that it is just that, a story.